Tiger did it! He won the Masters. This win is up there with Arnold’s dramatic come from behind 1960 U.S. Open win, Hogan’s comeback (from serious injury) win at the 1950 U.S. Open, coined the “miracle at Merion”, 46 year old Jack’s ’86 Masters, and Tiger’s ’97 Masters, and, yes, amateur Francis Ouimet’s amazing win at the 1913 U.S. Open against Harry Varden and Ted Ray. Two years ago I was predicting Tiger would never play again, and advised he give up the game and go out with honor. For Woods, at 43, after major back surgery, to win the 2019 Masters is nothing short of astounding. Yes, he had some help from Francesco Molinari, who dumped shots into the water at 12 and 15, after leading by two going into the back nine. But Tiger chewed his gum, kept his cool, and played smart golf the rest of the way in. Tiger showed young players who grew up watching his artistry that he still has the skills and the will to win. He is is not the intimidating player of old, but a new version of the old master who proved he can still win the Masters and perhaps more majors to come.
Next up: the PGA at Bethpage Black where he’s won before. Then comes the U.S. Open at Pebble where he’s won before. And then the British Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland which hosts The Open for the first time. Can Tiger win the Grand Slam? At the moment, he’s the only golfer in the world with a chance. I wouldn’t bet against him.
But Tiger not only impresses as a golfer. He has transformed himself from a polarizing, narcissistic character into a likable, approachable fellow who smiles more, signs more autographs, and answers questions from the press in a more open, nuanced fashion. Those images of him hugging his kids and his mom after this victory once and for all smash that impression of him as a distant and remote man. Just look how this mostly white, Southern crowd greeted this once-disgraced black athlete with such affection and adulation. It was a grand display of our country’s better angels.
I believe, too, that golf will benefit from Tiger’s win. More people will seek to learn the game. Some who have given up the game as too daunting or physically challenging will return. Some will be duly inspired as I was at 14 when Arnie won the U.S. Open in 1960. And others who may not actually take up the game may tune in more to events on TV or even attend live tournaments when they come to their towns. Tiger’s win at Augusta this year will absolutely grow this game. And that’s a good thing. That’s a very good thing.